Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults between the ages of 18 and 54. It is hard to categorize anxiety disorders in persons under eighteen because of the range of hormones and mood swings experienced in teen years. Although, many people under the age of eighteen are also diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Many people don’t understand just how crippling an anxiety disorder can be. They assume, because of the familiar term ‘anxiety’ that a person is just stressed out. Similar to the misconception that the only change for a diabetic is that they can’t eat sugar, which is also wildly incorrect. Most people with anxiety disorders are plagued with distress and panic where another person might only feel worried or ‘irked’. The tiniest things are blown out of proportion in the mind of a person with an anxiety disorder. It makes it very difficult for them to get through everyday situations.
There are many different causes for anxiety ranging from genetic dispositions to a traumatic life experience. Anxiety disorders cause distress and panic in situations where others would simply feel slightly irritated or worried. For example, many students feel stress before exams or traveling. With an anxiety disorder, this stress turns into intense panic and distress. Many people with anxiety disorders also feel this way in social settings, even though they are perfectly safe and have no direct stressor, they still feel distress and panic. The exact cause of anxiety and panic disorders is unknown but like many other mental disorders possible causes can include chemical changes in the brain and environmental stress. There are many different types of anxiety disorders. The most easily identified and independent from PTSD include social anxiety, worry and distress in public or social settings, panic disorder, which causes a person to enter into a panic attack for an unknown amount of time when they become stressed, generalized anxiety, predisposed to be anxious and distressed in any or all slightly worrying situations, and specific phobias, which is a panic towards something specific like arachnophobia, or the fear of something more intangible, such as vertigo, a fear of heights.
Symptoms of anxiety vary patient to patient, and also depend on which type of anxiety each patient has. Many people who experience anxiety disorders suffer from many symptoms in varying degrees of seriousness. These symptoms can include feelings of panic (or panic attacks), fear, and uneasiness, as well as problems sleeping, cold or sweaty hands or feet. Although it is not a symptom, many people who have anxiety disorders develop chronic migraines. Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear or panic. Panic attacks can be accompanied by more bodily symptoms such as heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, feelings of unreality, and when treated with many anxiety medications, hallucinations. The length of a panic attack varies between minutes and hours. If you have an anxiety disorder your chances of developing depression or alcoholism are greatly increased. If you have one type of anxiety disorder that goes untreated for a long time you have a higher chance of developing other anxiety disorders. For example, if you have social anxiety you might develop generalized anxiety over time, or the itchiness of an anxiety attack while in public can lead to a phobia of insects like ants, spiders or bedbugs that trigger anxiety attacks upon sight.
It is relatively well known that large amounts of stress, or frequent stressful situations can lead to a shorter life. So what does that mean for people with anxiety disorders, who are constantly stressed out and under pressure in their calmest state? Due to the lack of sleep, energy and frequent overwhelming emotional challenges, many people with chronic anxiety are often unable to keep up with their everyday lives, this can aggravate them further and deepen their overall sense of hopelessness and entrapment in the disorder. Several studies have proved that anxiety combined with depression, which is very common, increases the risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. It is fairly common for people with anxiety disorders to suffer from addictions to drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Anxiety can also cause digestive issues, heartburn, cramping, bloating, weight fluctuations, a loss of interest in sex, muscle tension and chronic pain as well as migraines and insomnia, which I have already mentioned. Stress and anxiety also decrease the productivity of the immune system. This Means that people with anxiety are more likely to develop allergies and other diseases ontop of anxiety. Which is, of course, only more cause of worry. Because of the continuous release of stress hormones people with anxiety disorders are at risk of developing other severe health problems like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.
Luckily there are many different kinds of treatment for people with anxiety disorders. Medication is useful for treating the symptoms of anxiety disorders and is prescribed in a combination with other therapies. However, all the drugs that are used to treat anxiety come with a long list of warnings and side effects. A lot of medication for anxiety can make a person dizzy and cause fainting. It is highly recommended that people with anxiety disorders take psychotherapy, with or without medication. There are many other options for people who are uncomfortable with medication, and they are all encouraged for those who choose to take medication additionally. Eating healthily and exercising daily can help combat many symptoms of anxiety disorders. Another way to relieve anxiety without medication or in addition to medication is through daily meditation.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent an anxiety disorder. Since the disorder is often hereditary or environmentally created, there is really no way to prevent yourself from getting an anxiety disorder. Thankfully, there are many things you can do to minimize your symptoms and treat the chemical imbalance. There are many things a person at risk of an anxiety disorder can do to minimize stress in their life as described previously. Another helpful thing to do is to get help early. As soon as you are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder keep a journal, this can help organize and process thoughts, prioritize, so you are not giving yourself things to worry about when they are irrelevant, and by avoiding unhealthy substance use.
Although anxiety disorders are crippling to many people, keeping them inside, paralyzing them with the thought of speaking to another person or trying something new, there are many ways to get through the challenges of the disorder. Whether you are more comfortable with natural treatment or prefer psychiatrist administered medications, there is help. There is as much help as much as there are challenges. Although it might get worse before it ever gets better, the important part is to keep your chin up, no matter how heavy it may be. Thankfully, with treatment of either kind, natural or traditional, people with anxiety disorders eventually overcome their crippling fears and distress and begin to build full lives for themselves. Even though relapses are common, the more care you give to yourself the quieter your mind will be.
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